Transparency, clearer picture of fiscal expenditures a 2018 Crystal City Council goal

Council previews upcoming budget assumptions, lays out clearer view at work session

By Laci Gagliano
Sun Post Newspapers

The Crystal City Council previewed the 2018 budget at a work session April 13. The city’s contracted finance director, Jean McGann, presented an overview of what the city can expect for the next fiscal year, including a brief glimpse into some of the factors that may impact the budget.

City Manager Anne Norris said the primary goal the council has for the budget is to make budgetary spending more clear.

“The takeaway is the council really wants us to focus on how we can be as transparent as possible about what revenues are used for,” Norris said. “They really want to see that the budget is very clear about where revenues come from, where levy dollars are used, and whether they are used on general operating expenditures versus capital: buildings, equipment, vehicles, et cetera.”

McGann said the city leaders thought it would be a good idea to start budget discussions early to ensure that sort of planning is successful. She took the council through a presentation that broke down the accounting principles behind the budget, including the function of governmental funds, proprietary funds used for enterprise, utility, and internal services, and fiduciary funds, which McGann explained is money held on behalf of another party.

The specific types of funds employed by the city include special revenue funds, which track revenue reserved for specific purposes; debt service funds, which track tax collections, interest accrual, and assessments; capital project funds, which track project and equipment costs, and enterprise funds, which includes operations financed in a way that is similar to a private business.

McGann laid out a 2018 budget calendar proposal, which sets the end of July as the deadline for a council packet containing an outline and early September as a preliminary budget adoption date. A public hearing is anticipated for November, although Norris said the council typically puts out notices for public involvement even earlier than that. The proposed date for a final public input meeting and adoption of the budget and levies is Dec. 5.

Some of the budget assumptions and impacts McGann presented include a gain of around $130,000 for the city police department’s newly acquired COPPS grant and a pool levy elimination of about $212,000.

Elections will occur in 2018, which is estimated to have an impact of about $35,000 on the budget. Among other sources of impact are caps on health and dental insurance for city employees and the settlement of union contracts with Local 56 and Unions 44 and 49 expected to take place in 2018.

A history of local government aid and property tax levies was also presented to help give the council a better scope of the long-term budget impacts and trends as part of the restructuring process that is meant to create transparency in the budget and spending.

Councilmember Jeff Kolb was surprised to learn that a debt service item related to County Road 81 was included in the general levy, rather than separate. When McGann asked for feedback for the finance department, Kolb asked for clearer representations of each budget item as the budget is laid out.

Ultimately, the council determined that, by laying out the budget in more transparent terms with greater clarity, more robust planning can be achieved.

Contact Laci Gagliano at [email protected]